Though Monday's trade that sent Liberty mainstay Cappie Pondexter to the Chicago Sky for former Brooklyn high school standout Epiphanny Prince may have the "blockbuster" headline attached to it, it should not be misinterpreted as a "win-now" move, Liberty brass said Tuesday on a conference call introducing Prince. Instead, it is part of a plan to get younger, build a nucleus, and compete consistently for the next five to six years.
"This is a growing thing," coach Bill Laimbeer said. "[We're] building for the future and building a basketball team that's going to be exciting for years to come, not just trying to go out there and piece together a team as fast as we can to win right now."
And for the Liberty, which finished 15-19 last year, that starts with youth. Prince turned 27 last month. Her new Liberty teammate, 2012 WNBA MVP Tina Charles, is 26. The now-traded Pondexter is 32.
"Part of [our] plan was 'Can we [have] somebody like Cappie, but is around the same age as Tina Charles,' " senior vice president of business and basketball operations Kristin Bernert said. "This sets us up for next year, but also for five to six years down the road. It felt like changes needed to be made overall."
Prince was born in Brooklyn and went to Murry Bergtraum in Manhattan, where she won four straight PSAL championships. The two-time WNBA All-Star averaged 15 points per game for the Sky last year, helping them reach the WNBA Finals. She played college basketball at Rutgers and is excited to come home and play at Madison Square Garden.
"When you grow up in New York City, playing at Madison Square Garden is like a dream come true," she said. " . . . To be able to compete for a championship on that floor is unbelievable."
The Liberty opens its season June 5 against the Atlanta Dream at the Garden.